“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John1:1
I love the Easter Vigil. I particularly like its beginning with carving the candle with the letters Alpha and Omega . . . the beginning and the end. The lighting of the candle and the sharing of “the Light” in “the Darkness” is for me an emotional moment of hope and faith.
It is also an affirmation I am part of a community of hope, of Easter people, of people committed to living The Way of compassion, love and inclusion as taught and modelled by Jesus the Nazarene.
I didn’t always like the Easter Vigil. I considered it superstitious clap-trap.
I resented the class and gender division within the church as Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus processed in with their finery along with the priest or bishop in his brocade medieval outfit.
Through my work, study and travels, I have had the good fortune of being trusted by numerous traditional indigenous peoples both here in Canada as well as abroad. Through them I was exposed to a variety of beliefs, ways of praying and being in the world.
Thanks to their generosity, I came to have a deep appreciation of our universal human need to have meaning in our lives as well as a framework for understanding our place in our worlds. This includes what constitutes “right relationship” with all of God’s creation.
One year, after being privileged to attend a Kwakwaka’wakw feast in which there were Hamatsa dancers, I attended an Easter Vigil.
I realized both were different culture’s ritualistic expressions of this human need for meaning and understanding their place relative to their understanding of the Divine and what constitutes right relationship with each other and all other aspects of creation.
For me, this deepened my understanding and appreciation for our Easter Vigil. It also deepened and shifted my understanding and appreciation for the life/death/resurrection story of Jesus.
I came to understand it as also being an expression of a Jungian archetype where we are continually invited, challenged and supported by our Divine Beloved to let go of whom we think we are in order to become who we are called to be.
Like a chrysalis needs to let go of being a chrysalis in order to become a butterfly . . . .
Is John right?
What if the Divine has always been with us . . . just named and experienced differently because of the variety of human cultural lens through which She is perceived? The Greek word for “word” in the sense John uses it is “logos.”
In Hellenistic philosophy, which permeates our understanding of Jesus, thanks to St. Paul and our sacred stories being written in Greek, “logos” refers to “the cosmic reason which gives order, purpose and intelligibility to our worlds.” The term “dialogue” (comprised of “dia” + “logos”) means to create a flow between cosmic understandings.
What if we are all chosen people of the Divine . . . and in our historical moment are challenged to learn from each other in order to move forward together — not in lockstep but in a variety of ways?
As the drum beats of war intensify and fear is spread into our hearts, there will be more resurrecting of Huntington’s thesis on the “inevitability” of the “clash of civilizations.”
If we insist on sticking to “our” stories as the one and only true naming and revelation of the Divine, his could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
If we insist on perceiving and understanding Jesus only as a substitutionary sacrifice made for our sins, we won’t engage our societies to transform them so authentic peace, justice and sustainability flow.
How is this being an Easter people in our dark challenging times?
What are the alternatives?
Hardly mentioned in our press is a perspective expressed by Persian scholar, author and former Iranian president (1997 - 2005) Mohammad Khatami.
Following Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent tragedies it was used to justify, Khatami called for an outright rejection of the “inevitability of the clash of civilizations and cultures thesis” as proposed by Huntington and quoted by G.W. Bush.
Khatami proposed a dialogue among cultures or civilizations.
In November 2001, the 185 member UNESCO General Assembly unanimously adopted their Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in defiance of Huntington’s thesis.
Article 3 of this Declaration states:
“Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.” (emphasis mine)
To me, this sounds consistent with many of the pronouncements of our church leaders.
Will we be confident enough in our relationship with the Divine to enter into such dialogues?
Perhaps — as an Easter people, we are to be more like Jesus and the chryalis; releasing who we think we are to become whom we are called to be by our Divine Beloved.
Perhaps — we are to let go of the old ways, trust in Spirit, and allow ourselves to be midwives of a new way forward based on love, compassion and inclusion as modelled by Jesus the Nazarene.